Yes, for those of you that missed it, Kanye West decided once again to show off his seriousness as a 'designer' by... jumping on a tabletop at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Yep, you read that correctly. A tabletop. Harvard. Predictably, people in the design world paid a moment's notice, rolled their eyes and tutted, before getting on with actually designing stuff - rather than pratting about like Kanye was doing.
Now before we get down to business, I want to ask two very good questions on behalf of Archiendo:
1. How did he even get inside the Harvard building in the first place? Surely he wasn't just passing by and think it a good idea to pop in - like some kind of mad old uncle? I mean, did he walk up to the reception, casually explain he wanted to preach his utopian vision to some students, before being let in? Is it that easy? It would have made way better headlines if he broke in instead to cause mayhem;
"Rapper breaks into design department and damages students' minds"
now that's a story I would read!
2. Is this something we should be expecting Kanye to do more of soon? I really really hope it is. Not only is it cute (shouting dreams from a table) but can you imagine the next set of headlines? -
"America's design departments on high vigilance as Kanye strikes again!"
"Police called after man shouts design visions from Apple store countertop"
Maybe we should all tweet him suggestions for where to 'preach' next?
The most sober question of it all is; if Kanye really want's to be 'taken seriously as a designer' then does he really think this is an appropriate way to act? Surely he recognises that the very decision to use a Harvard tabletop to talk about design is a) utterly narcissistic b) going to alienate himself from people and c) ultimately voiding anything that he said as sensationalist dribble. Judging from reader's comments at the bottom of the online news topic the general opinion seems to be that he managed to do all three.
Right now, I think this youtube clip tells you everything about Kanye's approach to him becoming a designer. If he doesn't look up and see how others behave in the design world he is just going to keep smacking his head, getting angry about it and then blaming other people... What a tool.
But anyways, I'm writing this because even though I think Kanye doesn't deserve the attention, he does make a fair point. The world can be saved through design. I just wish he would stop thinking of himself as the fully fledged designer to do it. I mean, just because there's money and fame in his grasp, doesn't give him the ability to design. I'm also annoyed he used the word 'architected' to explain himself... and fuming that such a word really exists!
In full, his speech on the Harvard tabletop went as follows;
"So after walking through here I decided that I wanted to make sure for anyone that didn't have tickets tonight that you all could have tickets to the show. So anybody who wants to come tonight, you can have tickets for the entire office!
...But I just wanted to tell you guys, I really do believe that the world can be saved through design, and everything needs to actually be "architected". And this is the reason why even some of the first DONDA employees were architects that started designing t-shirts instead of buildings. But just to see the work be actualised.
If I sit down and talk to Oprah for two hours, the conversation is about realisation, self realisation and actually seeing your creativity happen in front of you. So the reason why I turn up so much in interviews is because I've tasted what it means to create and be able to impact, and affect in a positive way.
And I know that there's more creativity to happen. And I know that there's traditionalists that hold back the good thoughts and there's people in offices that stop the creative people, and [who] are intimidated by actual good ideas.
I believe that utopia is actually possible, but we're led by the least noble, the least dignified, the least tasteful, the dumbest and the most political. So in no way am I a politician, I'm usually at my best politically incorrect and very direct. I really appreciate you guys' willingness to learn and hone your craft, and not be lazy about creation.
I'm very inspired to be in this space. Tonight, this show, if you come see it - um, I'm a bit self conscious because I'm showing it to architects. So the stage does have flaws in it. It's an expression of emotion so give me a pass on that. And that's basically all I have to say so thank you very much."
Now, imagine a respected designer had said that and ask yourself (truly and honestly) whether you might have sat up and paid attention? That someone believes the world needs to change through design and is passionate (and powerful enough) to make it happen is surely really exciting? I get that the whole 'Utopian thing' is not for everyone but people must surely acknowledge that the world does sometimes lack good and careful design?
I would not normally have blogged about this, but Kanye's outburst really rings true in my mind having very recently watched the film 'Objectified'. The film, by Gary Hustwit, examines objects in the world and the care (or carelessness) of design that affects the everyday all around us.
In some ways it brings up similar points to Kanye (a little more well expressed) but it raises several interesting ideas:
1. Should design be an elitist function? Why can't anybody in the world (Kanye included) be able to see bad design in the world and be empowered to do something about it? After all many designers come from all kinds of backgrounds and offer different skills, so why can't anyone be a designer? Sure, there's a specific way of thinking that good design embodies, but really the term 'designer' encompass so much.
2. Real 'design for all' doesn't happen. The closest thing you get to it is mission statements from designer outlets like IKEA where it means design for the masses'. The real failure of design for all is that good design is seen to always have a price tag on it. Does good design always mean expensive design? In Kanye's case, yes it does. His aforementioned t-shirts go for a whopping $120 online and don't even seem to be particularly revolutionary.
Duty of care. Care applies at every level of design - from the product to the urban scale.